No glory over security's own goal

The one positive that Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal might take away from the club's million-dollar security gaffe last Sunday is that he's not the only one in the proverbial doghouse. After his methods were blamed for the top club's lame season, it required a bungle of a considerable scale to deflect attention away from the maligned boss. That arose when a dummy bomb, carelessly left behind by a security firm after a training exercise, led to the evacuation of the 75,000-seat stadium before what was to be a crucial match. It is now the managing director of the blundering company who has to bear the ire of a legion of fans for whom football is not just a matter of life and death - it's much more important than that, as a legendary manager put it.

In a world fraught with concerns about terrorism, the far greater security misjudgment, of course, would be one that permits a serious breach resulting in deaths, injuries and devastation. Given such ever-present risks, the public should bear with even huge inconveniences to allow the authorities to probe all plausible threats emanating from known or shadowy sources. It's better to be safe than sorry, as often said, when the stakes are high. In Man U's case, its home, Old Trafford - which is billed as the "theatre of dreams" - has a profile that is high enough to warrant extra attention.

However, an egregious oversight on the part of the very people trusted to maintain high standards of public safety is understandably hard to stomach. Major false alarms due to the lapses of security personnel might whittle away the seriousness with which instructions ought to be followed when emergency codes are invoked. Hence, private security firms ought to have foolproof systems to ensure that operating procedures are observed to the letter, whether dealing with mock exercises or heart-stopping situations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 22, 2016, with the headline 'No glory over security's own goal'. Print Edition | Subscribe